Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

29.04.19

Providing clean energy to Cornwall

Source: PSE April/May 2019

Steve Ford, head of strategy and delivery at Cornwall Council, outlines the incredible work his authority has been doing to provide renewable energy to residents on the south-west coast.

In July 2015, Cornwall Council made history by becoming the first rural authority to secure a devolution deal, given power over £568m government funding to deliver services to local businesses and residents. Just three years on, Cornwall has managed to deliver over 50% of its original commitments including a 100% business rate retention pilot, enabling over 11,000 business interactions through the Growth and Skills hub and Better Business for All service. Good progress has been made with two key local priorities: reducing fuel poverty in 1,000 households in Cornwall now, and exploring the delivery of renewable energy in Cornwall in the future.

Due to the nature of Cornwall’s housing stock, traditional energy efficiency programmes have been unsuccessful in tackling the problems caused by the rural, solid wall, off-grid households, leaving it with a higher than average number of homes living in fuel poverty – 14.1% compared with the national average of 10%. Through the devolution deal, an Energy Company Obligation (ECO) flex eligibility pilot was developed with the council, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, SSE Energy Solutions, and referral partners. The pilot is being administered through the nationally-recognised Warm and Well programme, which, along with funding from the National Grid’s Warm Homes fund, will lead to £11.5m in investment over three years into making the homes of over 1,000 vulnerable households in Cornwall cheaper to heat every year.

Cornwall’s ambitions on renewable energy extend beyond securing Cornwall’s power supply towards making a significant contribution to the UK’s future prosperity. Cornwall’s extensive granite means it is seen as the most promising part of the UK to create combined heat and power using geothermal sources. As a result, deep geothermal was recognised as an opportunity within Cornwall Council’s strategy and business plan, with the potential to create a new energy sector for the UK.

Through the Cornwall Devolution Deal, the government agreed to continue to work with Cornwall Council to assess the potential support mechanisms for deep geothermal, should the resource be proven via locally-driven investment. As part of its commitment, the council agreed to appoint a dedicated geothermal policy officer to coordinate geothermal and heat network projects in Cornwall. This also included working with the managing authority to develop a deep geothermal European Regional Development Fund call.

The £18m United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project at United Downs near Redruth secured £10.6m from the European Research Development Fund (ERDF), match funded by £2.4m from Cornwall Council and £5m through a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The project, designed to harness Cornwall’s geothermal potential, has started drilling the UK’s deepest ever borehole in Cornwall in a bid to use heat from hot rocks as a zero-carbon source of electricity. The scheme hopes to create the UK’s first deep geothermal power station and ignite a renewed interest in the technology’s wider potential – which is expected to provide substantial jobs in the area, increase Gross Value Added (GVA), provide carbon reductions, and potentially help to eradicate fuel poverty in Cornwall.

Cornwall remains keen to develop its low-carbon economy, and has articulated a place-based approach called New Frontiers that will build on its existing devolution deal, look at post-Brexit opportunities, and develop its key sectors through the industrial strategy.

 

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